On Him

All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6

This morning in chapel I shared two stories that meant so much to me as a young Christian. They are always in my heart, and as Holy Week approaches, I thought of the record book of my life and how Jesus takes the sin upon himself. I wanted to share these simple illustrations at chapel.

How many times a day do you think a person might sin? That is, how often does someone do something wrong, e.g., covet what belongs to another person, tell a lie, hurt someone by their action? In addition, how often does someone fail to do something, e.g., feed the hungry, encourage the downhearted, or in any other way hurt someone by their inaction? How many times a day does a bad thought go through one’s head?

Maybe 20, 30, 40 times a day? Can I even count how many times in my life? No.

If all of my sins are recorded in a book, I will be found lacking. No matter how much good I do, I won’t be able to make up for the bad that I also do. Even just thirty or forty sins a day would tally up to be millions of sins over a lifetime. What if I was really good, though? What if I only sinned a few times a day. Well, as you can see on the chart below, I still would have a lifetime of bad to account for:

How many sins will we be guilty of in a lifetime?

If that record book follows me to judgment day–even if I only sin once a day–I won’t be found acceptable for God’s holy kingdom.

The beauty of salvation, though, is that it’s not on my shoulders to bear the book of my falls. God took that record book of sins and placed it on Jesus when he died on the cross. This morning I thought of this paraphrase of Isaiah 53:6:

All of us sheep have gone astray,
We have turned each one to his own way.

But there’s a plan to take our book of falls–
The Lord placed on Jesus the sin of us all.

Praise be to God for this amazing gift. I’m especially thankful for it as we commemorate Holy Week.

A song to meditate on:

Happy Easter!

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:6

“Happy Easter, Habibti!”

My friends warmly greeted me in the hall this morning on our way to the Easter breakfast at school. They spoke the words ‘Happy Easter’ with slow and deliberate pronunciation. Maybe it’s like the way I say, “Eid Mubarak,” to them during Muslim holy days, trying to get the syllables in the correct order.

We ate and chatted with teachers, administration, office and maintenance staffs around a full spread of Arab and other breakfast cuisines today. A breakfast on our last day of school before we take our annual Holy Week holiday from school. A breakfast to celebrate the holiest of Christian holidays. Our staff, from a dozen countries–Christians, Muslims, Hindus–all saying, “Happy Easter.”

The Easter mural on the whiteboard, drawn by our Muslim art teacher.

 

Help My Unbelief

Lord, I understand you can use any leader in this world because you are ultimately the King. “He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.” Daniel 2:21 However, it is a trying time in America. We need you to sort through all the rhetoric, lies and issues. I know you are doing it, but help my unbelief. Amen.

Jacob had a dream. God promised so many unconditional blessings, and Jacob struggled to believe them. “If you will be with me…” he said, conditionally.

Yes, God WILL be with you, Jacob, and all of us.

Here are a few slides from a devotion I did at the AMH chapel this morning.

Cultural Schema

“Do you have anti-freeze?” I asked, as I walked into the auto parts store ten minutes after closing. The door was still unlocked, and they graciously let me come into the shop, yet they looked blankly at me.

“Anti-freeze?” I asked again.

Puzzled looks around the room.

“Ahh…Coolant! I need coolant. My car is overheating,” I said, finally realizing people living in this desert have never had a need for anti-freeze.

The context in which you live shapes the way you understand things.

This can be true of the way we understand people too. I am learning to listen and ask questions. I don’t want to misunderstand what people do and say because I have not paid attention to how my understanding is different. My experiences have shaped my understanding in certain ways that others may never have experienced.

Coolant, not anti-freeze.

Petrol, not gasoline.

Trousers, not pants (means undies).

Operating theater, not operating room.

Use your right hand only to eat or pass something on to someone else. The left hand is considered unclean.

Context and culture shape the meaning of actions and words.

I have a lot to learn.

Keith Adding "Coolant"

Neighbors

Yesterday after church I was approached by two women. One asked for prayer for her friend, who was just new to our church. I asked them where they were from, just out of curiosity.  Or maybe it was just to make small talk before I asked what they needed prayer for.

“Cuba,” she replied.  She then went on to explain about her friend’s need for her employer to renew her work visa. They want to send her back to Cuba, but she wants to keep working here. She was telling me in English because her friend wasn’t able to. It then dawned on me that Spanish was their native language. That accent didn’t come from Kerala or Karnataka, from Malawi or Martinique, from Bangladesh or Botswana. It came from someone who spoke Spanish.

As I prayed, I wept. I was standing hand-in-hand with someone from the other side of the world, my side of the world. She felt not only like a sister in Christ, but also a geographical neighbor. Cuba is just a stone’s throw from Florida (actually 90 miles). Perhaps I also wept because, even though I grew up in Los Angeles county, I never learned Spanish enough to converse with her. I felt sad I couldn’t pray for her in Spanish.

Another thing. I believe in all my years, I had never before met a person who was still from Cuba. I’ve only met Cuban Americans, people born in America or those who left communist Cuba and made a new life in the US. In my lifetime, those Cuban Americans have not been welcome in their native country. (Now, thank God, after the recent changes perhaps they can now go between the US and Cuba, if they so desire.)

After this experience, I was struck again with the awesomeness of this place. I’m humbled that I can be here, praying and worshiping freely with my sisters.

This place where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and more live together, worshiping legally and without persecution. This place where dozens and dozens of nationalities come together and live in peace.

God bless Bahrain.

Be at peace with your neighbors.

Posted in ELC

A Tribute to My Fathers

“More meat, please,” my three-year-old self said, holding out the plate to my father.

He grabbed a serving spoon full of thick mashed potatoes, and proceeded to plop them onto my waiting plate.

First, more starch. He didn’t want any child of his to look skinny. He didn’t want anyone to think he wasn’t able to provide for his bursting-at-the-seams family. Seven children in this small house. “Why do they have so many kids?” the neighbors might wonder. “They can’t even feed them.”

But this time, I was faster. I grabbed my plate out from under the falling, unwanted potato blob. The spoonful landed, splatting on the table. “More meat I said!”

My siblings sat quietly. No one dared laugh. They looked at me. They looked at him. What will he do? they wondered. A slight upturn of his mouth revealed there would be no explosion this time. Relief around the table.

That story is part of the family lore around our father. Of course, I don’t really remember the incident. In fact, I don’t remember much about him at all. My older siblings remember him. They have stories, many of them painful, of life with Dad.

One thing I can say about my dad is he was a good provider. He provided not only unwanted potatoes, but the money to be able to afford meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, and a roof over our heads–even if it was a tight fit. In the midst of chronic alcoholism, he managed to continue to work and earn money for his large family.

Alcohol and tobacco abuse killed him at age 43, but thanks to Social Security and generous death benefits from my dad’s work at the power company in Los Angeles, my mom was able to carry on. We were able to survive and maybe even thrive after he was gone. Today, I’m thankful that he was able to continue working, in spite of his illness.

God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless and a champion of the widows. Psalm 68:5

This verse holds a lot of meaning for me. I was seven when my earthly dad died. I am comforted with this promise that God was and continues to be a father to me.

Many people don’t have fathers for a variety of reasons, and some people who do have fathers have bad ones. However, God is a good father.

Today in church, the Church School children gave a tribute to dads with a skit, a video of wishes about their fathers, and a prayer.

I was invited to pray for fathers at this service, so I chose this prayer by Charles R. Swindoll, with a few minor revisions. It gave me peace when I prayed it, and I hope it does for you too.

Lord, you are good to give us fathers. Far too often it’s a difficult role and thankless job, so we pray that today you will encourage all the men in that place. Guard their hearts. Strengthen their resolve. Help them embrace the joy that comes with the rearing of their children.

We thank you for our own fathers. For those of us who had supportive, loving and faithful fathers, we give you great thanks. There is nothing like a good father–one who leads his family with love and grace–presenting a life of self-sacrificial love consistently to his children.

Father, we also pray today for those who haven’t a father nearby or don’t have one like they would have wanted. We pray for those who have a father who taints their image of You. We pray you will make them trusting people and see that you are the Father of the fatherless. You’re able to take their deepest hurts and heal them. We pray you would use your word and your people to relieve some of their pain. For those who have not yet bowed their knee to the Savior, bring them to that place right now. May we give honor to you, God, for being our father and for giving us fathers. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

This Father’s Day I’m thankful for the physical provision that my dad was able to provide.

I’m even more thankful, that in the midst of brokenness, my father in heaven provides love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Manna – Gather Yours Today

 

The MOMs group at the ELC is studying Beth Moore‘s book called A Woman’s Heart. We had a great session this evening complete with food for our stomachs and food for our souls.

The manna that the people of God had in the wilderness was called the “bread of heaven.” Each day the people gathered food for that day. They didn’t store it up, but enjoyed their daily bread.

Later, Jesus tells us the “true bread of heaven” comes from the Father and gives life to the world. He calls himself the bread of life (John 6:31-35). He is also the Word of God (John 1:1-2).

We have a chance to enjoy this true bread of heaven, this very Word of God, every single day.

It’s all about a relationship with Jesus, every single day.

Beth Moore's DVD series "A  Woman's Heart"

A Quick Story on Technology and Learning Arabic

P1060829

So, I have this nifty new smart phone, my first one ever. A friend recently told me about an app to learn how to read and write the Arabic alphabet (TenguGo Arabic), so I added it to my phone and started taking lessons.

I took notes on a Post-it to keep straight all the unfamiliar features of the language (and to help me on the quizzes). Then, I kept the sticky note stuck on the front of my phone for over a day, so I could keep the info handy.

I woke up in the morning and laughed about my low tech notes. I realized I had an app for that, so I moved the info from my sticky note to Keep.

Keep Note

Ah, yes, isn’t that slick?

But, then I turned my Post-it note over and realized I had another problem.

Arabic Notes

Oops! I don’t know how to write Arabic letters on a Keep note. YET!

 

Creation and Rest or Rest and Creation?

This is my last week before I go back to school. During the past month, I’ve had an amazing time of rest. It’s been wonderful to have time to go to AMH’s chapel on some mornings, (when I was up early enough to get there). This week I’ve been to two of the 7:30 a.m. meetings, and today I even led chapel–kind of a recap of what I’ve been learning this week.

On Sunday Dr. G shared about Mary and Martha, and how Mary had made the better choice. Though he also shared, “The most difficult thing we have to do is live a spiritual life in a physical body,” which I’ve been thinking about as I try to get up earlier this week to spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus. Yesterday Elizabeth read Psalm 8—how God created us just a little lower than the angels, and also how we need to look from God’s bigger perspective. Keith recently shared an insight from Watchman Nee’s book Sit, Walk, Stand. I’ve also been reading Job this week, so all these things started coming together.

I used scripture from Job 38. This comes after Job has gone through tremendous suffering, and he and his three friends have had a lengthy discussion about it. God finally intervenes and asks him some serious questions about where Job was during creation.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb?…

It goes on for most of the next four chapters. He does pause twice to hear from Job. These are some of the stumbling responses Job makes:

Job's Response

Job knew his place. He admited that he didn’t know anything about how the world was created. Job wasn’t there. Only God was there. God didn’t need Job’s help to create.

The following picture shows the things God created on each of the days of creation.

creation

Yes, notice people were created last, after everything else! In Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee explains that God’s plan for people is for them to sit and rest in what God has done for them. This was the plan from the very beginning.

What does it really mean to sit down? When we walk or stand we bear on our legs all the weight of our own body, but when we sit down our entire weight, no matter how heavy we are, rests upon the chair or couch on which we sit. We grow weary when we walk or stand, but we feel rested when we have sat down for a while.

To sit down is simply to rest our whole weight – our load, ourselves, our future, everything – upon the Lord. We let Him bear the responsibility and cease to carry it ourselves.

In the creation God worked from the first to the sixth day and rested on the seventh. We may truthfully say that for those first six days He was very busy. Then, the task He had set Himself completed, He ceased to work. The seventh day became the Sabbath of God; it was God’s rest.

But what of Adam? Where did he stand in relation to that rest of God? Adam, we are told, was created on the sixth day. Clearly, then, he had no part in those first six days of work, for he came into being only at their end. God’s seventh day was, in fact, Adam’s first. Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed His Sabbath rest, Adam began his life with the Sabbath; for God works before He rests, while man must first enter into God’s rest, and then alone can he work. Moreover it was because God’s work of creation was truly complete that Adam’s life could begin with rest. And here is the Gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of salvation, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of His finished work.

Many people in scripture, recognized God’s work and our place in it, like the Psalmist here.

Psalm902.jpg

So, it’s important for us to start with REST. Here are some things to remember, some of which were shared at chapel this morning:

  1. Like Adam, Job, and others before us, we need to remember it is the Lord who created everything. He worked first, so we can rest.
  2. See yourself seated with Christ in the heavenly places. (Read Eph. 2:6.)
  3. Trust that nothing will happen without the knowledge and working it for good of your faithful Savior. (Read Romans 8:28)
  4. “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:29
  5. Rest Less – When we become restless, we need to REST, so we become LESS. When God becomes more, we become less and able to rest. (Dr. G)
  6. Favorite verse to meditate on: “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (Elizabeth)

Because we rest in God, we can become creators. We need creativity and innovation in our broken world.

A friend came to my house a few weeks ago and helped me create chicken curry with foods I already had in my house and spices from my cupboard, some of which I had not dared to try before she came over. She empowered me to be creative with the food, and as a result of her sharing, I tried this the following week:

Tomatoes, Okra, and Ginger

I cooked these fresh ingredients. Yes, that’s OKRA–the first time I had ever bought it.

Finished Dish

It was delicious, and no slime!

Today, I have more appreciation for all the beautiful fruits, vegetables, and herbs available in this world, things I had never seen in our small Iowa town, but this delicious produce is available here in Bahrain. I’ve become more creative and willing to give these foods a try, thanks to my friend’s creative encouragement and help!

Another example is the amazing work of the Circle project, now called Circles Without Borders, by Dr. Mary and others. (Last week, Keith wrote about it here.)  What a wonderful way to use our creativity and serve at the same time. Here’s something new being created for Circles Without Borders:

Circles

You’ll have to wait to see what this will become!

Yes, we can take charge of things that need creative solutions. In fact, God commanded us in the garden to care for creation. Psalm 8:6 says, “You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.” We can and must come up with creative solutions for everyday problems and ways to make the world a better place. We have a contribution to make, but don’t forget to start with REST.

BeFunky_REST.jpg

Here are my slides for you to look through. Feel free to use any slides you like! (The pictures were either taken by me or found on Morguefile.com and edited, so I have the license to share them.)

Posted in AMH

Circles Without Borders

The mission of the American Mission Hospital is: “We are here to serve the people in Bahrain in the Spirit of Christ who went about doing good to all who came to him.” Compassion is one of the ways the Spirit of Christ is shown to those who come for medical care.

One of the ways compassion is shared is through the Chaplain’s Fund that provides assistance to those who cannot afford medical care. It is a great joy to see the relief on a patient’s face when they discover there is help available.

Dr. Mary, one of our anesthesiologists, had a vision for how to raise funds for the Chaplain’s Fund. She is a craft project lover and she saw a woman wearing a pair of earrings made from discarded IV bottle pull rings. She asked how they were made. Earlier this year she gathered volunteers from the staff at AMH to begin to make the earrings.

Dr. Mary is a firm believer in recycling, innovation, and using the talents of people. All these values were incorporated into what is now called, “Circles without Borders.”

The first step in making the earrings is to gather ring-pull tabs from IV bottles.

Pulling the tab

Then trim the extra plastic off the ring so they are ready for the next step.

Pull tabs with rings

Next, nylon thread is crocheted around the plastic rings.

Circles sewing

Almost finished…

Almost finished

The nylon strings are trimmed off and melted to prevent unraveling, and then earring wires are attached.

Finally, you have a beautiful earring!

Finished Earing

Here’s Dr. Mary with the finished products.

Dr. Mary with a box full of completed earrings

The earrings are sold at AMH events and to staff at the hospital. Chaplain Keith has also distributed them at churches in the United States. Many people have the opportunity to share in the Spirit of Christ who reaches out to people with compassion and healing. This is a project “without borders.”

Posted in AMH